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Forty Hours Devotion a solemn tradition for Sisters of Providence

The Solemn Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, also known as Forty Hours Devotion, will take place Sunday, Feb. 19; Monday, Feb. 20; and Tuesday, Feb. 21; in the Church of the Immaculate Conception at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

This period, the three days preceding Ash Wednesday, the opening of Lent, was fixed by Bishop Celestine de la Hailandiere when he granted the permission in perpetuity to the Congregation at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

The Forty Hours Devotion of the Blessed Sacrament arose in the first half of the 16th century to beg divine protection against the Turks. Toward the end of the century, Pope Paul III established it in Rome to rotate from church to church as a continuous public prayer for the needs of the time.

According to documents in the Sisters of Providence Archives, Forty Hours Devotion began at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods 1843. It was also the first such devotion in the United States and is still honored today by the sisters.

Beginning that year, the Blessed Sacrament was exposed all day with benediction each evening in the small convent chapel. For those three blessed days, all gathered at the foot of the tabernacle.

Not until 10 years later did Bishop (Saint) John Neumann introduced the Forty Hours Devotion into the diocese of Philadelphia.

In the year 1856, the Forty Hours Devotion did not take place at its regular time because of a death in the Congregation. It occurred on Palm Sunday, March 16. It opened with the usual solemnity, the sisters replacing one another before the beautifully decorated altar. The Terre Haute sisters returned to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods and the Congregation was in retreat. On one day only, Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, foundress of the Sisters of Providence, was able to join them. The next morning during Mass, she was taken so ill that she had to leave the chapel. She died about two months later.

Below is a list of times for the devotion period. People of all faith traditions are welcome to participate.

Sunday, Feb. 19: Solemn Exposition begins after the 11 a.m. Eucharistic Liturgy. Reposition at 4:30 p.m.

Monday, Feb. 20: Exposition at 8 a.m.; Reposition at 11:15 a.m., prior to the Eucharistic Liturgy at 11:30 a.m.; Exposition again after liturgy with reposition at 4:30 p.m.

Tuesday, Feb. 21: Exposition at 8 a.m.; Reposition at 11:15 a.m., prior to the Eucharistic Liturgy at 11:30 a.m.; Exposition again after Liturgy with Closing of the Solemn Exposition and Benediction at 4:30 p.m.

About the Sisters of Providence

The Sisters of Providence, a congregation of 214 women religious, with 300 Providence Associates, collaborate with others to create a more just and hope-filled world through prayer, education, service and advocacy. The Sisters of Providence have their motherhouse at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, located just northwest of downtown Terre Haute, Ind., which is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Saint Mother Theodore Guerin founded the Sisters of Providence at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in 1840. Today, Sisters of Providence minister in 13 states, the District of Columbia and Asia, through works of love, mercy and justice. More information about the Sisters of Providence and their ministries can be found at SistersofProvidence.org.

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Sisters of Providence

The Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, are a congregation of Roman Catholic women religious (sisters) who minister throughout the United States and Taiwan. Saint Mother Theodore Guerin founded the Sisters of Providence in 1840. The congregation has a mission of being God's Providence in the world by committing to performing works of love, mercy and justice in service among God's people.
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